Friday, 15 March 2013
I'll admit that my own heart took in the news of the new Pope with a measure of pain, confusion and even sadness, but as others have said of themselves, letting go of Pope Francis's predecessor is not an easy thing to do.
Pope Emeritus Benedict had an understanding of the connection between right worship and right faith. Supported by the hard work of pastors loyal to him, I was awakened to the beauty of Catholic tradition and the beauty of the traditional Mass. How can we ever thank Benedict enough for this? It is impossible to do his service to the Church justice!
It may be that Pope Francis will never either appreciate nor put into action the liturgical preferences and priorities of his predecessor. I would be very surprised if His Holiness were to 'turn back the clock' on Benedict's reign because Pope Francis is, as Benedict XVI was, concerned with unity within the Church.
It is already clear that Pope Francis wishes to see the Church return to a sense of mission. Already, His Holiness has set out a vision. It is the vision of the Cross, from which we all take fright. It is already evident that His Holiness sees the Church's mission not in the arena of 'initiatives' at Diocesan level, but in terms of the personal holiness of the Church's members who, united with Jesus Christ, go out into the world to proclaim the good news of salvation. He obviously wants the Catholics of the 21st century - the Popes, the Bishops and Cardinals and laymen - to be known not for their liturgical exactness, nor for their corruption or sexual sins - but for their great love!
So, to those who, short of 48 hours are already condemning the Papacy of Pope Francis, I say this:
Quo vadis? Where are you going? You speak of your love for Jesus, but what are you doing? Where are the poor that find shelter under your wing? Where is the orphan for whom you care? Where is the widow you protect? When people look at you, can they tell you are a Christian? Are you spending all your days carping at the Pope because of his terrible vestments? What a waste of your life! Where is your treasure? For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also! If St Anthony of Padua reigned on the Throne of St Peter, but as a simpleton had little knowledge or understanding of the liturgical orientation of his beloved predecessor, would you still complain?
To that I would say: know you of such a man? Second, you would ask of God for such a Pope, yet you are unwilling to lead such a life yourself? Whose feet are you washing? Whose bellies are you feeding? What is the point of a liturgically perfect Mass if it does not lead you out to love your neighbour and lay your life down as a fragrant offering to God!? Know you not that since the beginning of the papacy, few, if any Popes have been perfect? Are there any perfect Popes but for the ones known to be in Heaven?
Take what the reigning Pope gives you to eat, since if you do not eat it, you will starve! It is likely that this pontificate will see a renewed persecution of the Catholic Church. It is likely the Pope will irritate governments of the World with his statements on life, love, sexuality, liberty and the family. It is likely they will be displeased by the statements from His Holiness on our societies' contemptible neglect and indifference to the poor, to the elderly, to the unborn and to the most vulnerable. A civilised society is known for its treatment of its young, its unborn, its elderly and its prisoners. If that is the case, then we are no longer a civilised society. Because of this, it could be that his pontificate perhaps even sees the martrydom, white or red, of Catholics loyal to the Successor of St Peter.
No Pope has been truly perfect. No living man is perfect but Christ, no lady perfect but Our Lady. Recall that even after his denials of the Lord, the first Pope, St Peter, only returned to Rome to face martyrdom because Christ appeared along the Appian Way to tell him to do so. Had the Lord not appeared to him, think you that the first Pontiff would have returned to bear witness to his Lord!?
Do not waste your spiritual or temporal time laying into Pope Francis. Quo vadis? Where else have you to go? Look beyond his vestments. Listen to what he has to say. Put into practise your Christianity, the faith that you proclaim with your lips, for time is short and you know not when you will be called to give an account of your life.
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